What: Eine Kleine Summer Music
When/where: Sundays, June 4, 11, 18, and 25, 2:30 p.m., First Unitarian Church of Victoria (5575 West Saanich Rd.); Mondays, June 12, 19, and 26, 7 p.m., Church & State Wines (1445 Benvenuto Ave., Central Saanich)
Tickets: First Unitarian $30, seniors and students $25, four-concert subscriptions $110/$90; Church & State $35. Call 250-413-3134; online at eventbrite.ca
Eine Kleine Summer Music, the chamber music festival held every June, celebrates its 30th season this year.
The achievement is all the more impressive given that the festival seems to become only more ambitious and more popular with age.
It now features performers of national and international stature alongside the best local talent, has made recordings, and programs interesting and unfamiliar works alongside staples of the chamber repertoire.
This year, as usual, there will be four Sunday afternoon concerts at the First Unitarian Church of Victoria, in the Saanich countryside.
It became apparent long ago that interest in EKSM far exceeded the church’s capacity, and today its concerts often sell out well in advance, hence this early heads-up.
But a move to a bigger venue would compromise the intimacy that always best suits chamber music and is one of this festival’s charms.
In recent years, in an effort to meet the demand, EKSM has repeated some programs at local wineries.
Most of these concerts have been at Muse Winery, but Muse closed last year, so this summer, for the first time, EKSM will move to Church & State Wines, in Brentwood Bay. Three of the Sunday programs will be repeated at Church & State on the following Monday evening.
(EKSM has raised its prices this year, especially for single tickets.)
The biggest news of the season is the appearance, on June 4, of pianist Jan Lisiecki, the Calgary-born former child prodigy who is now, at 22, a major figure on the international classical music scene.
So far this year, Lisiecki has given more than 40 concerts, all over North America and around Europe. Since 2012, he has made four albums for Deutsche Grammophon, a premier classical label that signed him when he was just 15.
(One of those albums includes Schumann’s concerto, which Lisiecki will perform here on Oct. 30 as part of the National Arts Centre Orchestra’s Canada 150 Tour.)
Though he now performs regularly in the world’s biggest cities and most prestigious halls, Lisiecki continues to appear around Canada, often in venues that superstars don’t usually grace.
His June 4 appearance is a real coup for EKSM, especially given that Lisiecki, though he has performed twice with the Victoria Symphony, has evidently never before given a solo recital here.
His June 4 program includes a Bach partita, pieces by Schumann and Chopin and Schubert’s Op. 142 impromptus.
The remaining three programs are all built around EKSM’s in-house Muse Ensemble, comprising pianist Lorraine Min, violinist Terence Tam, violist Kenji Fuse, and cellist Laura Backstrom. All are well known here as soloists and in chamber music, and Tam and Fuse are core members of the Victoria Symphony. Backstrom has co-directed EKSM since 1999, and with Min since 2015.
Other locals appearing this year, drawn from various ensembles, include violinist Julian Vitek, cellist Pamela Highbaugh Aloni and bassist Bruce Meikle.
The June 11-12 concerts will also feature, in his EKSM debut, Toronto-based violinist and violist Barry Shiffman, whom the festival describes as “an icon of Canadian chamber music.” Shiffman co-founded the acclaimed St. Lawrence String Quartet.
The all-strings program includes a trio by Dvorák , Vaughan Williams’s Phantasy Quintet and Brahms’s great G-major sextet.
On June 18-19, the Muse Ensemble will offer a program including Mozart's glorious Piano Quartet in E-flat Major, Grieg’s Violin Sonata No. 3, Sibelius’s String Trio and Old Photographs, a movement for piano trio by Canadian composer Christos Hatzis.
These concerts will double as a CD launch — by popular demand, EKSM has produced its second CD featuring the Muse Ensemble, comprising the above-mentioned works by Mozart, Grieg and Sibelius.
(EKSM’s first CD, released in 2012 as a silver-anniversary memento, features the ensemble in major works by Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms.)
Finally, on June 25-26, Suzanne Lemieux, principal oboist of Symphony Nova Scotia, in Halifax, will make her EKSM debut in a program that includes conductor-composer Antal Dorati’s Duo Concertante for oboe and piano, Mozart’s Oboe Quartet and a modern reconstruction of a concerto for oboe and violin by Bach, as well as Beethoven’s meaty Piano Trio in C Minor, Op. 1/No. 3.